I think I know the answers, but thought I would start this thread. For me, until the end of 2015 (and maybe during 2015 to keep my lounge access before Delta (and Amex) become useless for me, I will mainly use my Amex Skymiles Reserve card. When it comes up for renewal in November 2016 I will not renew it unless Delta has made changes (highly unlikely). The good timing for me is that my travel this year will still result in Plat Med Elite Plus status, and I can use the Amex card for the benefits it provides flying Delta. When those benefits from Delta begin to evaporate in 2015-16, I am planning to use Chase Sapphire Elite Mastercard almost completely, and will probably cancel my Amex card. I will keep my Marriott Rewards card, despite only 1-2 stays a year, because it has the international chip and is relatively inexpensive.
Today I got an invitation to join the Black Card VISA. It makes it out to be hotsy-totsy (excuse my language, but I am originally from a lower middle class family) but with a $495 non-waived fee for the first year it is much more expensive than my Amex reserve card. And one review pointed out that to get your first reward after spending $1500 and getting a $500 ticket, you could have just bought it anyway?
Any thoughts? My personal favorite without the Delta perks is Sapphire.
My primary card is the Marriott Visa Signature card. I like getting a night credit for every $3,000 that I spend. My secondary card is Amex SPG card so I can get Starwood points on all my Costco purchases. (Eventually this will pay for some nice airline tickets for my wife and I.) My third card is the Hilton Visa Reserve card which gives me Gold status with the card and I stay at Hilton in those places where Marriott is not available (like Kayenta, AZ and Gallup NM.)
I found this link to the Black Card Visa: https://www.blackcard.com/
It appears that the main benefit of the card is the Unlimited Airport Lounge access and for me personally that is not worth $495 annual fee. Plus the sign up bonus seems like a joke after having to spend $495 (annual fee) plus the $1500 to get the $500 reward.
As you said the Marriott Card is worth keeping for the chip and the $85 annual fee pays for itself with the free night certificate each year.
I recently signed up for the Barclay Arrival Mastercard and so far have been very happy. The signup bonus included 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. Each mile is worth 1 cent towards travel credits on your statement and each time you redeem miles for travel you get 10% bonus miles for future use which means the signup offer has a $440 value. You also earn 2 miles for every dollar spent and when you factor in the bonus redemption miles you get a 2.3% return on all purchases. Barclay also has a travel rewards community and each time you post a travel story with a photo you earn additional miles. The annual fee is $89 but is waived for the first year.
I'll weigh in. I agree with Curiousone. The Chase Marriott signature visa card is still the overall best card for me, with the Costco Amex Business card coming in 2nd.
The Marriott visa pays for itself with the annual Cat. 1-5 cert and the bonus nights (towards elite and lifetime status) as well as contributing the 5 points/dollar on every Marriott spend. Additionally, it pays 2 points/dollar for airline spends, which is the same value that I get with airline credit cards.
With the Costco Amex Business card, I get 4% cash back on gasoline purchases (both at and away from Costco). This amounts to about a $250 annual cash rebate for gas and Costco warehouse purchases, and there is no annual fee (outside of the Costco membership fee).
So those are my two main cards. I am a little embarrassed to say that at the moment I have no less than 4 airline credit cards, but that is about to change. I plan on dumping all of them except for the Alaska Airlines Visa.
I got the US Airways MasterCard last year to stretch the Marriott points to miles that I converted on a travel package, and so the annual fee paid for itself with the 30K miles I got for taking out the card, but after one year, I still haven't flown US Airways (and the two free companion airfare coupons will go to waste.) Additionally, I recently received notification that the US Airways Mastercard is going to be converted to an AA Advantage MasterCard through Barclays Bank. Don't need it. It's getting the heave ho.
This leads me to my next airline credit card, the AA Advantage MasterCard through Citibank. I just took it out recently, because I booked a flight on AA for the first time in years, and the card issuance provided no annual fee the first year, $100 off of my flight purchase, and 30K bonus miles. It also provides a free checked bag and group 2 boarding, but since I now always purchase upgraded economy seats, I get the free bag and group 1 boarding with it anyway. So, there is no further "advantage" to keeping it (and paying the annual fee). It too has got to go.
Last year I also took out the Delta Amex credit card, because my kids moved back to the states from Germany, so I knew I would be switching from flying Lufthansa to flying a domestic carrier. Delta was my first stab. (I like Delta Airlines, btw). The credit card gave me 40K points and a free companion ticket, both of which were put to good use. I used the one-time complimentary lounge passes that came with the credit card, and then took advantage of an offer to purchase 4 lounge passes for $99. So the credit card did me good initially, but since then, I've tried American and I think I will be sticking with them (itineraries and cost won out). So the Delta Amex card will have to retire too (and the lounge passes will probably be a bust since I'll likely not have an opportunity to use them before they expire this Dec.) And as far as airport lounges, I think that most of them are overrated. I've not been overly impressed with the ones that I've visited. There are a few stellar ones globally that I've read about, and I was afforded the usage of the OneWorld lounge at LAX last year, which was stellar, but it's certainly not worth paying a ransom for.
So I think it just depends on one's travel and spending patterns as to which card works best. I have a friend who recently took out an airline credit card that is offering 100K miles if you spend $10K in the first three months. She has an upcoming trip and other expenses equaling that amount of spending, so that card is a good, no great fit for her. I don't have anything like those kinds of expenses looming on the horizon. For me, I fly Alaska to see the folks and one daughter (and the Alaska credit card pays 3 miles/dollar spent with the airlines), American to see the other daughter, and (believe it or not) Alaska is my preferred carrier to the east coast. For travel abroad, I still prefer and insist on QF, AF (both OneWorld) and LH over U.S. carriers. I stay at Marriotts. So the Alaska and Marriott cards are all I need.
I've been an AMEX kid for so long I can't remember, it says some strange date like1984 on the card and I love the Membership Miles particularly since UA is no longer part of the program so I might just find a way to use them on AS and get on our one flight a day to SEA in the future. Rarely use any other card other than my debit card which I'd love to link to AMEX!
Since Marriott Rewards card isn't very useful to me anymore, Sapphire reigns supreme. I get 2x every transportation and hotel dollar spent, and you can pay yourself back plus get the 7% bonus on points earned every year. When spent in Europe or the Middle East this becomes quite valuable. 1-5 cat certificates are useless to me, and always expire. While I liked the $3000 extra night spending when I was staying at Marriotts it was great, but now that I am staying at independent hotels, Sapphire works better for every form of transportation except Delta Skymiles. I will continue to use that to retain my elite status for 2015 and the Amex Reserve Skymiles benefits, but I'm using Sapphire for everything else.
Over the years you have brought us (the MRI members) very educational, insightful information on array of topics, but I think you are agonizing too much over what credit card you will need/may want to use starting in 2016, that almost 2 years away.
As the appreciation for customers’ loyally is changing by airlines, hotels, etc, we will see changes in the credit benefits and offerings as well. ENJOY TODAY.
Actually, blava, it's just based on what has happened over the past year or so. I have almost completely stopped using my Marriott Rewards Platinum card except at the Venice Courtyard, since I want to get points toward something, and Marriott isn't giving me that anymore.
Delta/Amex seems on a predestined course. Since Delta has raised their Skyclub memberships by $200 for an individual (not yet reflected in the Amex Reserve Skymiles Card, but I doubt it won't be), I think paying $450 a year ONLY for Skyclub privileges (especially not in particularly good health and at age 62) doesn't make sense. I'm doing my Delta stuff for this year to keep Platinum Medallion elite plus for next year, but it's obvious by trying their formulas based on past trips to Europe that while I could continue the Platinum status, I wouldn't earn enough miles in 2015 to make it worthwhile.
All that said, the Sapphire card by Chase is great. I've been using it more and more and they even (same day) caught multiple fraud charges by a Venice restaurant near the Rialto and contacted me. I get 2x all travel stuff, a relatively inexpensive yearly fee, can stay wherever I want and get 2x points, and then get both the bonus percentage and the ability to just pay cash back to my account. I have a Venture card too and it is useless by comparison.
A lot of it may be age. Going on 62 isn't what it used to be, but at the same time my structural/arthritic/neurologic issues are major, so I want to maximize what I get for my dollars while I still can travel.
Cheers! Happy Easter/Passover/Weekend to all!
I think our replies point out how our credit card/travel choices are as unique as each of us. Hopefully, as our travel needs change over time we can evaluate our credit cards to make sure they are best selected to meet those needs. I only jumped into the travel pool about 5 years ago when I purchased my first Marriott timeshare (back when they only sold weeks) At that time I became a Marriott Premier card holder only. In 2012 I traded into a Westin timeshare and realized the benefit of adding a SPG Amex card to my wallet. When the great devaluation of 2013 hit I decided to look around and see what else was available. That is when I discovered all the benefits that were offered by credit card companies. Boy, was that an eye opener. As a result of that, I added the Hilton Reserve Visa to my wallet. My wife has added her own Marriott Premier so we get 2 free cat 5 hotels each year, and she builds her own credit record. While my Marriott time shares keep me centered on Marriott Visa, for me there are benefits to having other cards. Five years ago we only had 2 Marriott credit cards, 1 personal and 1 business. Now, between the 2 of us we have 7 cards between personal and business. My one warning to anybody reading this that is not yet into the credit card game, the ONLY way it works is if you pay all of them off every month. Once you start paying interest there is no benefit to you.
very good advice curiousone. Alot of people get in trouble so easily with credit cards. Anyone reading this post will be warned and advised to be careful with them, whether you have one or many.
excellent post profchiara. Good information and like curiousone mentioned, everyone plays the game to their advantage
I agree that each of us has unique needs as far as credit cards. I take advantage of special offers and cancel the card before I get charged. I have to be careful to not get too many at once and cancel in time. I will keep the Marriott card al long as I can use the category 5 certificate.
Which credit card and how you accumulate points seems to be a matter of personal preference, but also where you travel. For instance, AMEX is not accepted at many foreign establishments - especially smaller establishments - due to higher credit fees. However, I use the Delta AMEX Platinum card for my airline purchases and some larger charges domestically to accumulate Delta reward miles; and I use my Marriott Visa Signature Card for all Marriott Hotel charges and auto rentals, and most local restaurant charges. Until recently, Visa was one of the few cards that did not charge a currency exchange fee for purchases, but Delta AMEX has just announced it will offer same privileges. Two premium charge cards, both with relatively-high annual fees, are enough for me, and renewals reward the holder with points for hotel stays or free domestic airline trips.
I've read/seen where people will sign up for multiple credit cards to take advantage of one-time freebies; however, if you don't use the cards somewhat frequently and eventually cancel them this might possibly be reflected on your credit report, if you're concerned about such.
Another thing to consider is not to use too many credit cards. I have a lot. But I only use a few. The problem with using a lot of credit cards for different things (hotels, airlines, shopping) is that you are spreading out your spending and losing out on the main benefits of your most important credit cards. I use Amex Delta Skymiles Reserve almost always because I get double miles, lounge access throughout the world on Skyteam, Plus Elite Status, and if I do 30,000 dollars in spending I get an extra $15,000 MQM and double that 30,000 MQM. MQM's on Delta are worth far more than any other kind of spending, so it is something to consider about how much you want to spend through multiple credit cards.
Sadly, the MR VISA Preferred card is only a backup card for me -- and that's because it has the European chip. But I gain nothing otherwise from using it. When Amex is not the best choice (I don't get 2x for anything but Delta spending), I use Chase Sapphire. For all travel, from least to best, I get 2 x as well as for restaurants, plus get to pay myself back at about a 10% rate. It's a very good credit card.
I still use the Chase Marriott Premier (hard, black) card as my primary card. I got a fair amount of input here, before and after: MR Premier VISA - Ka-CHING!!!
It is amazing to me that a card stands out on the basis of having a "euro chip".
From what I can tell, the chip readers are from American companies.
Visa/Mastercard/Amex all went through changes. For example, when they added the magnetic stripe to the cards years ago, or when they increased the number of digits in the card number, every issuer was onboard with that.
However, it seems that when things went to "chip and pin that users in the USA are far behind the curve. I don't know why. We converted years ago.
The only places at home that I know of who do not use chip and pin are:
I imagine it is quite a pain travelling to Europe without a chip and pin card.
From what I have heard, the credit card companies simply think it is too expensive to convert all the cards to chip cards. Apparently they are willing to take their chances on fraud (as I experienced at a restaurant in Venice – though Sapphire caught it right away), rather than the initial outlay that it would cost them. Most of the time I never have problems using my other credit cards without a chip in Europe, but I carry the Marriott preferred visa just in case.
I know that you're saying, but I cited the other two examples - I guess one was necessary and the other increased their efficiency.
Capital One actually made it more expensive for themselves in my opinon because they did everyone on a schedule and even if you had a renewal (which I did) they would sent out a mag stripe one and then a chip and pin one a few months later....
It is all done now long ago here, and I don't recall anyone taking a big financial hit for it.......it will happen in USA eventually.
That's interesting -- I have two CapOne cards, including the Venture -- and neither has offered me a chip card. I use Venture mostly for 0% balance transfers when I travel too much then put it back in the box. Here's my priority for cards, for which I never transfer balances so that I pay them off each month:
1) Delta Skymiles Amex Reserve - double miles on Delta; free bag (not that I use that), companion ticket (not that I use that), free lounge access worldwide (wow do I use that) and the MQMs after $30 and $60K of spending. If I get near a threshold I use the Amex for everything, plus if I'm not using Sapphire for other travel, transportation, hotels, or restaurants I use Amex at post offices and grocery stores. Cash is a thing of the past for me.
2) Sapphire - Assuming I don't need one of the conditions above, I always use Sapphire for all hotels, non-air transportation (or at least non-Delta), and restaurants. The earnings, payback feature, and end of year bonus make it a great card, and I was very, very impressed that they caught 10 fraudulent charges from the same awful restaurant in Venice by the time I got back to my hotel and cancelled them immediately while letting me use my card for all in person purchases.
3) Marriott Rewards Preferred VISA -- when I stay at the Venice Courtyard, if they ever get the Athens Ledra back, and for the chip just in case.
Actually I live in Canada and my CapitalOne Card is issued by their "Canadian bank" which probably goes a long way to explaining why it is a chip card.
I use that and more often, the TD Visa Infinite - both cards give me quite a few travel benefits and I get cash back from the TD one. Credits for travel on the Capital One.
Maybe it is not perfect, but I have a Star Alliance Gold with Air Canada, Marriott Platinum, I get by. I also have a priority pass and can use that if I need into a lounge when I am flying a non Star Alliance carrier.
I'm glad you have what works for you.
It really depends what you're trying to go after. The Sapphire Preferred is undoubtedly one of the best cards in the industry thanks to the excellent Ultimate Rewards program that comes with it. A great companion card that carries no annual fee, is the Chase Freedom. It earns 5 Ultimate Rewards pts/$1 on special spend categories (like gas, amazon.com, etc) each quarter.
Membership Rewards with Amex is also another great rewards program with different, and perhaps complimentary benefits. Best cards for Membership Rewards would be the Amex Gold Premier ($175/year) and the Amex EveryDay Preferred card ($95/year).
Beyond that, the decision gets more difficult and will really depend what you're looking for and/or what program you'd like to replace Delta SkyMiles with. For example, currently you can earn 100,000 AAdvantage Miles if you meet minimum spend requirements with the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard. It has a $450/year annual fee and includes Admirals Club membership.
All of the above cards, with the exception of the Freedom and the Amex Gold do come with the EMV Chip/Smart Chip/Euro Chip.
Thanks for posing about the 100K AAdvantage Miles promo from Citi. It appears that its not really a public offer but after searching for the deal more I read on another travel blog that some people who submit an application are still able to take advantage of the offer. In order to get the 100K bonus miles you have to spend $10k in 90 days. For those who are interested here is a link to the application form:
I'll keep this offer in mind. Sometime within in the next few years I'm hoping to fly to Australia in Business or First Class. I noticed on American that you can fly Business Class on their partner airline Quantas from LAX to Sydney for 125K miles. So getting 100K miles for free would definitely be a nice bonus.
Good to know that it worked for you! The tricky part for me is figuring out how to charge 10K in 3 months. I may have to wait until I have a need to make a really large purchase that I already have the funds for.
Also I just noticed "The Points Guy" is blogging about the card today:
Hey vaboywnder, give me your card I have all sort of ways to charge 10K in about three minutes!!!!
$10,000 seems and is a lot of money because we see it as a lump sum. I needed a major appliance. You can buy gift cards. Consider where you shop and pre-pay. For example: Trader Joes is a place where many of use spend money regularly and maybe $100 a week. Prepay for a year. How about gas? With prices where they are that has to be about $100 a week. Buy some gasoline cards. The catch is that you need to be able to pay for these when billed or the interest can eat the benefit.
californian's got a point there! But if you don't want to do that, View from the Wing posted a way to manufacture spending without really spending much:
If you do try their technique, start out small to make sure it works. It's quite a bit of physical effort, but worth it for the 100,000 AAdvantage miles if you have the time to do it. As for building AAdvantage miles, do be sure to keep a close eye on the program. The US Cronies at the top have been busy making changes to the program without warning. While I have been stockpiling miles (without the 100,000 mile offer), I'm hoping AA won't make changes that are too drastic so that my earnings will be in vain! I really don't trust the US execs leading my beloved AA...
Another possible solution I just thought of to making the required $10k spending is to make use of Paypal. You can send up to $10,000 to a friend/family member through paypal with a credit card as the funding source. Paypal does charge a 2.9% fee to do this and the transaction is categorized as a purchase. So if you sent $7,000 to a friend/family member using the credit card the fee would be about $203. Citi Bank gives you a free $200 statement credit as part of the signup bonus so this would be like an even trade if you sent $7,000 through PayPal. Once your friend/family member gets the funds they can deposit them into their bank account and either write you a check or send the Payment directly to your Citi Card.